This week, we read a double Torah portion. In the Jewish calendar as established by the Masoretes, the Rabbinic scholars living in Safed in the seventh and eighth centuries of the Common Era, there are 54 Torah portions. In the Jewish lunar/solar year, there are 50 weeks. On four Shabbatot in the year, therefore, we must read two Torah portions in order to complete all five books by next Simchat Torah. (When there is a Jewish leap year, the Masoretes arranged for an additional month of Adar Bet, with every Torah portion then having its own Shabbat morning.) This year, Jews all over the world are reading from two portions: Aharei Mot-Leviticus 16:1-18:30, and Kedoshim: 19:1-20:27.
The first portion contains many laws that are no longer relevant for us in the 21st century. In the Sinai wilderness, G-d Almighty has regular discourses with Moses our Teacher in the Tabernacle. Moses is the only one who is allowed to enter the Tabernacle at any time. The Sidrah begins with a mention of great tragedy: the sons of Aaron the High Priest Nadav and Avihu, had gone into the Tabernacle to offer their sacrifice with “strange fire,” and had come too close to the Divine Flame. They die instantly. As the Sidrah begins, Moses is told in no uncertain terms that his brother is not to enter the Tabernacle whenever he wishes. “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain, in front of the cover that is upon the Ark, lest he die, for I appear in the cloud over the cover.”(16:2)
We learn of the rituals that have become integral sections of the traditional Yom Kippur liturgy and observance to this day. Inside of the Tent of Meeting, Aaron performs a ritual to expiate his own sins, the sins of his family, and the sins of the entire nation of Israel. This ritual of sending a goat into the wilderness is to take place on the tenth day of the seventh month. According to the Biblical counting: “And this shall be to you a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall practice self-denial, and you shall do no matter of work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you.”(17:29) This is the beginning of Yom Kippur fasting observance that we observe on this very date until today!
The Sidrah of Kedoshim, our second portion, is the beginning of what is called the Holiness Code. These laws relate to us and the way we behave as Jews today! This section is “the climactic section of Leviticus.”(Plaut commentary, page 797) The Jews are commanded to lead a life of Holiness! The portion of Kedoshim begins with a recapitulation and short summary of the Ten Commandments. “You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal Your G-d, am holy. You shall each revere your mother and your father, and keep my Sabbaths: I the Eternal am your G-d. Do not turn to idols or make molten gods for yourselves; I the Eternal am your G-d.”(19:1-3)
In this Sidrah, we learn one of the most important Mitzvot in all of Jewish tradition: “You shall not take vengeance or hear a grudge against members of your people. Love your fellow as yourself. I am the Eternal!”(19:18) This verse is the source of the “Golden Rule” in our value system, adhered to by Monotheists all over the world. This Mitzvah defines what being holy really means for all of us.
The portion contains many Mitzvot that are incumbent on all of us to keep as guideposts in our ethical and ritual behavior. The portion establishes a connection between our observance of the Holiness Code and our right to live in Israel. “I shall give the land to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I the Eternal am your G-d who has set you apart from other peoples.”(20:24) Holiness is defined as being set apart from others by our ethical, moral, and ritual behavior! This Sidrah states the beginnings of the Holiness code that continues in the rest of the Book of Leviticus.
Our membership in Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel is our affirmative statement that we both accept our responsibility and our privilege to observe and follow the Holiness Code, as stated in the Sidrah of Kedoshim. This weekend is dedicated to our committing ourselves to sustain and support the future growth of our beloved KI. There is a special Shabbat evening tribute service beginning at 6:00 p.m., Friday evening. On Saturday evening, beginning at 7:00 p.m. sharp, our Gala Fundraiser and Concert will be broadcasted to our community.
My colleague and friend, Cantor Amy Levy, together with her gifted and resourceful husband, Ross M. Levy, have devoted countless hours to assembling a magnificent evening of music entitled, “Together Wherever We Go!” All the talented participants are multi-generational members of KI, from preschool children to mature seniors.
Cantor Levy has prepared a program of show music, liturgical selections, parody songs, and art songs. Included in the cast are our beloved KI Professional Quartet, our virtuoso organist/pianist Andrew Senn, our wonderful volunteer Adult Choir Shir KI, Rabbi Sussman, Rabbi Maslin, Brian Rissinger, talented members of our professional and office staff, and many congregants too numerous to mention.
The musical selections are moving, touching, very funny, artistic, and filled with love for KI. There are selections from Broadway shows including Dear Evan Hansen, The Rothschilds, Gypsy, Wicked, and many others. We can hear the popular version of Adon Olam sung in synagogues all over the world to “You’ll Be Back,” from Hamilton. Our Adult Choir Shir KI will premiere our new virtual choral recording of Shalom Rav/Abundant Peace, by Canadian composer Ben Steinberg, originally commissioned by KI. Many other songs will touch our souls in a profound way! The music and the complete production have been assembled “in house” by the inspired abilities and talents of Cantor Amy E. Levy and Ross M. Levy!
We all have the opportunity to participate in the holiness of the KI community by attending this gala virtual concert. CLICK HERE to purchase your tickets. Let us all BE TOGETHER WHEREVER WE GO!
Ellen and I look forward to worshipping with you, tomorrow on Shabbat evening at 6 pm, and singing with you at the Gala Virtual Concert on Saturday evening at 7 pm.
Shabbat Shalom U’m’vorach!